After returning from a bipartisan congressional trip to Israel, Rep. Josh Gottheimer is pushing for more to do be done by the U.S. government in fighting antisemitism.
This bipartisan congressional trip, coming just before President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to Israel next week, included participating in discussions with senior level Israel officials regarding strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship to improve defense and security cooperation; making progress toward regional normalization and economic and security cooperation stemming from the Abraham Accords; and countering the threat of Iran and its terrorist proxies to Israel, the region, and the U.S.
“Our congressional trip showed our historic ally, Israel, that efforts to strengthen and maintain our nations’ strategic relationship are bipartisan and more important than ever,” said Gottheimer. “It was an honor to meet with many leaders and have the opportunity to hear their many perspectives.”
The seven Members of Congress — four Democrats and three Republicans—met with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Alternate Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the United Arab List Party Mansour Abbas, and Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Mohammad Shtayyeh.
The group traveled to the Lebanon border to see a Hezbollah terror tunnel, and toured and received briefings on military installations including missile defense systems Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3.
“We must remember that Israel’s national security is key to America’s national security, and to our fight against terror, including against Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS,” said the Congressman. “I look forward to making sure that the U.S.-Israel relationship remains bipartisan and durable.”
The trip, sponsored by the non-profit American Israel Educational Foundation, included Reps. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Fred Upton (R-MI), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Ron Kind (D-WI), and Michael Turner (R-OH), as well as AIPAC Board Chairman Mort Fridman, a Teaneck native.
Other issues Gottheimer highlighted that were discussed during the visit included coordinating on combating global antisemitism and supporting the independent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Additionally, the Bergen County lawmaker met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and Bahrain Ambassador to Israel Khaled Yousif Al Jalahma.
“Despite the significant challenges faced across the region and the world, it was refreshing to see how closely these leaders are broadly aligned,” said Gottheimer. “There is palatable excitement around the Abraham Accords and all that it offers the region, and of course, deep concerns regarding the threat of Iranian nuclear capabilities and its terrorist proxies.”
The trip comes after a bipartisan letter that Gottheimer was a signatory on was sent to U.S. Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, calling for his department to take urgent additional action to combat antisemitism and prosecute antisemitic hate crimes in New Jersey and nationwide.
“More can and must be done,” the Members of Congress wrote in a letter that included North Jersey Congressman Donald Payne and Tom Malinowski. “Only by working together, across all branches and levels of government, across our country and throughout our society, can we address the many facets of antisemitism and ensure the safety and security of the American Jewish community.”
The 92 House members cited their concerns about the antisemitic threats the American Jewish community has faced across the country in recent years—highlighting incidents in Jersey City, Lakewood and Monsey as well as Pittsburgh, Poway and Colleyville. The lawmakers asked Mayorkas to advocate for a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy, led by the Department of Homeland Security, to specifically address the growing problem of domestic antisemitism.
“We must ensure our federal, state, and local agencies are communicating with one another and have the necessary education, training, and resources to confront this threat. We must ensure every facet of our government is engaging with local community partners on the front lines,” they wrote.
Antisemitic Threats at Home
FBI hate crime statistics show that crimes targeting Jews comprise a majority of all religion-based hate crimes, despite Jews making up less than 2% of the population. Recent data from the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents tracked more than 2,700 reported antisemitic incidents throughout the U.S. in 2021—the worst year for antisemitism ever recorded, with an average of over seven attacks per day.
Antisemitic assaults against members of the Jewish community in 2021 increased by 167% over 2020. According to the American Jewish Committee’s 2021 State of Antisemitism in America report, one in four Jews said their Jewish institution was a target of antisemitism.
“It is clear the American Jewish community is on high alert and for due cause,” opined the members of Congress. “Hate in all its forms is destructive and, unaddressed, risks fraying the fabric of our nation. We must continue to speak up and confront antisemitism head-on, whenever and wherever it arises.”